By Wes Annac, Openhearted Rebellion
Originally posted March 18, 2021
Many of us complicate life for no good reason. We expect too much from the world, and we forget that to be alive at all is a gift. We’re always looking for something more. We want things to be better, faster, more impressive; and we’re in a mad dash to get everything we feel entitled to have.
We are searching for a remedy for the nine-to-five life most of us are caught in – a remedy we expect will satiate our ever-growing appetite in exchange for the work we put in day after day.
We see this in society when, for example, someone takes out their frustration on a server in a restaurant for messing up their order. We even see it in our interactions with technology. How many times have you witnessed someone get angry with their phone for not working fast enough?
The prevailing mindset seems to be that “I work every day, so everyone and everything else should work for me.” Society expects a lot from us, so we, in turn, expect high-level efficiency from the people and things in our life. When those people or things fail to meet our expectations, we get frustrated at best and furious at worst.
If I work so hard to meet the demands of a society that only seems to care about productivity, then why can’t everyone else? Why can’t that server just take down my order correctly – how hard could it be? Why am I the only person who can do my job the right way?
A lack of empathy is born from our rush to survive in a world in which we’re classified as workers and consumers. In exchange for whatever dull, uninspiring work we do every day, we expect to be taken care of by the society that demands our hard work. And our standards are high. Eventually, this self-centered consumerist mentality takes over as we cease to care about other people.
Too many of us have fallen into this trap. If left unchecked, it can have terrible but not entirely unintended consequences. The idea that we should slog away in some office, factory, or warehouse so we can enjoy the creature comforts of modern life is in part responsible for our crippling addictions to food, drugs, and technology.
We scream at our phones when they don’t work because we can’t go without social media. We yell at our servers because we crave that restaurant’s indulgent food. If we must work 8 hours a day for some mega-rich company that doesn’t care about us, then we’re at least going to enjoy a nice meal. We’ll verbally beat down anyone too incompetent to give us what we deserve.
Our addictions and childish behavior toward fellow human beings come partly from the need to feel in control. There is so much we are not in control of – especially when it comes to how we make a living. Nobody who works in a factory really wants to be there, but we’re told that if we show up every day and do the work no matter how much we hate it, we’ll have earned the right to survive.
This gives us a sense of ownership and pride over the material possessions that the corporations we work for allow us to have. We may not control what we do for a living, but we control the money we make and the things we can buy with it. We exert that control like it’s all we’ve got because, in some ways, it is.
Spending money at that restaurant makes us feel in control. It’s like we have ownership over the food and even the people who serve it. Therefore, if the cook messes up our food, we feel entitled enough to complain and send it back. If the server makes a mistake with our order, we feel entitled enough to chew them out.
The things we spend our hard-earned money on are all we have control over, and so we begin to treat other people like commodities we feel comfortable yelling at over their mistakes. The customer service rep you’re berating is not a human trying to survive like you – they are a commodity standing in your way of watching the big game.
Basically, the system we are living under encourages you to work yourself to death while fostering a self-centered attitude riddled with addictions to modern creature comforts which reinforce the need to work. The purpose of it all is to keep you disconnected and distracted from the fact that you are a cog in the machine.
For the modern worker, simplicity has gone out the window. Everything must be better, faster, and more efficient because we are expected to be better, faster, and more efficient. It chips away at our empathy until we no longer see people as people.
With that in mind, let’s be more than self-centered workers and consumers. Instead of expecting so much from each other, let’s look out for each other. Maybe one day, we can change the social norms that feed into the consumer lifestyle and the disconnection it creates.
For now, this is what we’re stuck with. But we can do our best from within this system to encourage kindness and solidarity. We can help others see that we’re all human and we all deserve compassion.
Regardless of whether things change one day, we have an opportunity now to raise our standards for how we treat each other. Day by day, let’s try to care more about each other and less about satiating our appetites. We are all in this together; it’s time we start acting like it.
Featured image credit: thinkpublic on Flickr – https://flickr.com/photos/thinkpublic/2366197687, Creative Commons